The festive season is a time for relaxation, reflection, and celebration after a year of hard work; however, with these celebrations now upon us, it’s time to pause and consider measures that ensure work events remain safe and enjoyable for everyone.
Inappropriate behaviour during festive season work events can have far-reaching consequences for employers and employees. But some simple strategies can be implemented before and during events to establish expectations and see everyone enjoy their festive season work events free from incidents.
While attending work-related events, it’s important to remember that all employees are still required to uphold the usual sense of professionalism that would typically be expected in the workplace. Events outside of regular work hours are no excuse to disregard a workplace’s policies and procedures for appropriate conduct.
The importance of planning
The best safeguard to protect all staff from inappropriate conduct during festive season events is being prepared before celebrations begin. As an employer, you must establish behavioural expectations for all staff before events start. It’s not enough to assume that staff will understand that their conduct during after-work events needs to remain professional.
Now is a good time to review current policies regarding acceptable conduct at work and work-related functions. Refer staff to these policies before any work events and consider some refresher training, especially if this hasn’t happened recently.
Arrange a pre-event meeting (perhaps with a follow-up email) to remind staff of what is considered appropriate conduct during work events and that they are expected to uphold the same standards of behaviour that apply during ordinary working hours – especially concerning sexual harassment, bullying, safety and any relevant workplace codes of conduct.
Make it clear to all staff that although the function is a celebration, it needs to be safe and enjoyable for everyone in attendance. Any staff engaging in inappropriate or dangerous behaviour during the event may be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal. Setting the expectations early and across the board helps everyone stay on the same page.
Professional behaviour is always expected at work events – regardless of location, time, or activity.
Consider any potential safety risks of the chosen venue or any activities you may have planned. This is especially true if serving alcohol.
Although for some workplaces, it might seem like an extreme option, consider not serving alcohol. Eliminating alcohol at events drastically reduces the risk of unprofessional behaviour, although it may be an unpopular option.
If you do choose to serve alcohol at your work events, engage with staff beforehand to remind them about their obligations regarding the responsible consumption of alcohol and take time to consider the following:
- Make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options available (especially water) and that you are serving more food than alcohol.
- Be mindful of the range of alcoholic beverages. It’s generally considered best practice to limit drinks to beer and wine.
- Also, consider a “cut-off” time for alcoholic beverages to assist in reducing excessive consumption.
- Having clear start and finish times for events and sticking to them – this avoids endless events that “kick on” for many hours and increases the chances of unprofessional behaviour and excessive consumption of alcohol.
- Remind staff that if they’re planning on consuming alcohol, to make a plan ahead of time on how they will travel home safely.
- Implement a requirement for senior managers to remain sober during the event to oversee and handle any issues that arise before they get out of control.
If you plan on having a Kris Kringle (or Secret Santa), remind all staff beforehand that any gifts purchased must be rated ‘G’. Gift recipients and others who will either see or hear about the present afterward should not have cause for offence leading to a possible breach of the organisation’s sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination policy. A good rule is to purchase gifts suitable for family viewing.
While it’s common for partygoers to post numerous videos and photos on social media, reminding staff they must comply with their work social media policy is important. A practical rule is that if you need clarification on whether to post something online, don’t. Work events are not an opportunity to post inappropriate images and comments, especially those that would breach ordinary standards of professional conduct.
The Festive season is a wonderful time of year for all staff to gather and celebrate their hard work over the previous year. However, any work-related event must be safe and enjoyable for all staff members. Professional conduct is still expected, irrespective of the event, activity time, or location. Going into the festive season with a plan is an employer’s best way of ensuring staff are reminded about what is expected during these events.
Now is an ideal time to review relevant policies and procedures. If that’s something you’d like help with, please reach out. At Zenith HR, we can help you with resources and information, no matter what your industry is.